This risotto made with barley and asparagus is a lovely alternative to the classic dish. I prefer to roast the asparagus instead of boiling it so the spears still have a bit of a crunch. Unlike rice, barley will not release as much starch. However, adding finely grated Parmesan will make it taste just as creamy.
Parmesan cheese is not truly vegetarian, as it contains animal rennet. To make this dish 100% vegetarian, omit the cheese or find a suitable vegetarian substitute made without animal rennet. In supermarkets look for the 'parmesan style hard cheeses' which are suitable for vegetarians.